WASHINGTON - Republican unity showed unmistakable signs of fraying Monday as Democrats and the White House vowed to reject tea party-driven demands to delay the nation's health care overhaul as the price for averting a partial government shutdown at midnight.
The stock market dropped as fears spread that the first shutdown in 17 years would send hundreds of thousands of federal workers home and harm the economy.
Ironically, the issue at the core of the dispute, implementation of key parts of ``Obamacare,'' will begin Tuesday on schedule, shutdown or no.
As lawmakers squabbled, President Barack Obama urged them instead to ``act responsibly and do what's right for the American people.''
At the White House, he said he was willing to discuss long-term budget issues with members of Congress, and expected to do soon. But, he added, ``The only way to do that is for everybody to sit down in good faith without threatening to harm women and veterans and children with a government shutdown.''
Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate set a midafternoon vote to reject the latest House-passed bill, a measure that would delay the new health care law for a year and repeal a tax on medical devices that helps play for the program.
A shutdown would cause an uneven impact across the face of government, inconveniencing millions.
Many low-to-moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays. Passport applications would be delayed.
About 800,000 federal workers, many already reeling from the effect of automatic budget cuts, would be forced off the job without pay. But some critical services such as patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent, and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.
Anticipating the vote, House Republican leaders met in Speaker John Boehner's office to plan their next move. Officials said that even though time was running short, they expected at least one more attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House.